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Joshua Osbourn Ph.D.
When one thinks of organic chemistry, positive thoughts do not usually come to mind. In fact, many college students are intimidated by the subject.
However, Joshua Osbourn has helped countless students succeed in organic chemistry courses by altering the curriculum and encouraging students throughout their coursework.
Osbourn, who earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from WVU in 2007, has two major goals as a professor. First, he hopes to reassure students that they are capable of understanding the course material.
“Organic chemistry has a negative stigma and many students enter the course with apprehension and the expectation that it is nearly impossible to do well,” Osbourn said. “I want students to realize that they can do well if they are dedicated and hard working.”
Secondly, Osbourn strives to teach students how to problem solve and not merely memorize content for a test. He does this by first focusing on the basics and treating organic chemistry like a language.
“The first half of organic chemistry should be treated like learning a language,” Osbourn said. “Once we learn the language, then we spend the remainder of the semester applying our knowledge and becoming fluent.”
While he recognizes that most of his students will not become organic chemists, Osbourn says the skills taught in organic chemistry courses will prove invaluable regardless of which career path students choose.
Osbourn’s own career path wasn’t made clear until his junior year of college when he served as a laboratory teaching assistant. Despite always enjoying science, the Shinnston, West Virginia native had never taken a chemistry course before college. Luckily, he quickly discovered his passion for chemistry and eventually his passion for teaching others.
WVU is a special place for the professor both in and out of the classroom.
"WVU has some of the best and most passionate sports fans in the country,” he said. “Academically, we offer top notch programs and produce many outstanding students.”
Although he went away for graduate school, Osbourn always wanted to come home to West Virginia and have the same influence on students that his professors had on him during his undergraduate career.
“I am thankful for the excellent professors I had at WVU,” he said. “While preparing for an academic career as a graduate student, it was always my dream to return to WVU as a professor so that I might be able to make an impact on students in the same positive way that I was as an undergraduate student.”
Osbourn says his time as a professor at WVU has been rewarding and enjoyable. One of the most gratifying experiences, according to him, is when a student who is struggling seeks help and he is able to help them excel in the course.
“This is when I can then work individually with the student to assess his or her learning style and then find a way to help them genuinely understand the material,” Osbourn said. “It is always a pleasant surprise when one of these students later tell me that they actually ended up enjoying organic chemistry and now help other students understand the subject.”
This past year Osbourn was recognized by the WVU Foundation as one of six Outstanding Teachers. The award was established in 1985 to honor faculty members who have excelled at helping students and developed innovative teaching methods. Recipients of the award receive $5,000 in professional development monies from the WVU Foundation.